It's a modern-day story that calls back to biblical times. An Indiana widow donates a rare 19th-century U.S. gold coin to a church just days away from a financial deadline for a new building. The coin proves to be far more valuable than the church ever expected.
"The widow told us the coin was rare but we never dreamed how huge the true value was or the money it could ultimately bring for GracePoint Church" said lead pastor Ben Lamb.
In fact, Heritage Auctions expects to sell it for $300,000 or more in a public auction in the Chicago area and online on April 27th.
The coin is an 1866 proof Liberty Head double eagle with the motto "in God we trust." It's one of the earliest uses of the motto and especially meaningful to GracePoint.
"It's ironic that the last few hours before our financial deadline, the congregation had to do exactly what the coin's motto said over a hundred years ago: trust God," said Pastor Ben.
GracePoint began in 2009 and has held Sunday morning services since then in an elementary school. The gift of the coin will allow it to have its own church building.
In expectation of its auction price, Heritage was able to immediately wire an advance payment of $150,000 to GracePoint to meet its deadline. "We were absolutely blown away," said Lamb, "we were completely stunned by the value of the coin."
The widow, who has chosen to remain anonymous, gave the coin to the church as "seed money" for its building program. Lamb says her husband was a quadriplegic for many years and used his time to study investing and coin collecting. The 1866 coin was the first one he had purchased. He passed away 14 years ago but she held on to the coin.
Heritage Auctions says the coin was authenticated as genuine in 1992 and graded Proof 65 (on a scale of 1 to 70) by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, one of the world's largest rare coin authentication companies.
"According to U.S. Mint records, only 30 proof Liberty double eagles were struck in 1866," said Lisa Miller, Director of Numismatics at Heritage Auctions' New York office, "today we can track only 10 known surviving specimens and three of them are part of permanent collections."
The "in God we trust" motto first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864.
GracePoint's story is a reminder of the Luke chapter 21 story of the widow's two mites where Jesus praises the woman for giving two small coins to the synagogue. "She out of her poverty put in all she had to live on," he said in verse four.